Friday, August 24, 2012

it's cereus!

During 2012 my production of blog posts has dwindled, averaging three per month, rather than the two a week I set as a goal in January. In fact I posted nothing here in July or August (so far), which means that the average has actually been four per month -- exactly half of the two-per-week goal.

Setting a specific goal may have been the actual culprit. This is something I have been doing differently in 2012. Taking an on-line workshop in the setting and achieving of goals has been beneficial in many areas of my life, but I think the workshop's focus on quantification has not helped me everywhere.

My Christian-Scientist friend Jean (gone off to Washington, DC, years ago) comes to mind. She said that naming a problem and "giving it a history" made it more real and harder to solve or cure. Jean was talking about an illness or injury that someone (perhaps myself) had endowed with history and thus exacerbated.*

Yes, Jean, this year I have given my procrastination a history, and it has loomed so large that curing it has become a preoccupation, leading me to read several self-help books. One of these has been The War of Art, by novelist Steven Pressfield. I, who so love to fold of phrases inside out (man of nature, spheres of music, science of advancement) fell in love with the title and waded right in.

Pressfield convincingly describes a mortal conflict between creativity and resistance, his name for the evil force behind procrastination. "Do the work!" he cries, "Turn pro!" In more specific chapters about the writing process, it's "Have a theme!" This sent me into a tizzy.

While I am good at identifying the themes in other people's writing, I have never thought about whether or not I could generate themes myself, and this started me on a long path of introspective lit crit.

At last I think my major theme is "getting things right." Often this means simply learning something new, but it is the kind of learning that frequently requires discarding a preconception. As the immortal Charlie Brown puts it, "Linus will have to go to school twice as long to unlearn all the things that Lucy has told him."

Sometimes unlearning is a long, slow process, but sometimes it is a flash of insight. On Monday evening we came home from a two-week vacation to see numerous buds and one spent blossom on what I always thought was a Euphorbia candelabrum, the cherished anchor plant at the northwest corner of our front garden. It's cereus, I realized at last. Cereus lamprospermus, to be as exact as I need to be right now.

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*Alas, the dark and dangerous side of Jean's philosophy is denial, which kept her from recognizing the dementia that finally made it impossible for her to live independently.
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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License